Sunday, February 28, 2021

Kinda Cool After All

A few months ago I found out a colleague of mine is an extra in Cool Runnings (Jon Turtletaub, 1993), the movie about the debut of the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. In order to spot her, I watched the film, but my expectations were low; I was expecting a pretty broad comedy. Instead, I found Cool Runnings respectful, sincere, and comedic in the best sense; we laugh with the characters, not at them. The four young men who form the team feel fully formed; they're not stereotypes, and each young man has a character arc of his own, as well as a different reason for their quixotic quest for Olympic glory. John Candy plays their grumpy coach, a man shamed by cheating with a different bobsled squad in the distant past. And Candy, too, is good; his role is more dramatic than comedic. 

The journey of these five men feels real; it's compelling, dramatic without slipping into hyperbole, touching where it needs to be, and there's even a solid message about character and grit, and how that's more important than winning. The lads' final run down the bobsled course is very moving, though I have no idea if that's how the event played out in reality. 

And it was nice to see some location shots of Calgary circa the early 1990s (redressed to look like 1988, of course). 

Cool Runnings really surprised me. The film isn't a classic, but its makers should be commended for their efforts. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ruminations on Rambo: Last Blood

There is so much blood in Rambo: Last Blood (Adrian Grunberg, 2019). Viewers will also enjoy plentiful entrails and brains splattered all over the screen in an orgy of violence unseen since . . . well, Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, 2008). This time around, Rambo lives on an isolated farm somewhere close to Mexico. He resides with a kindly matronly woman and college-aged Carmen, who Rambo has taken under his wing after her real father abandoned her. 

Alas, Carmen goes to Mexico, depicted as a seething pit of drug dealers, murderers, rapists, and human traffickers, to find her biological father. Find him she does, and in a tragically hilarious scene, she asks him why he abandoned his family. Bio-dad uses just a few words to say, essentially, "I didn't care about either one of you, so I left. You can go now." And then he slams the door in her face. Distraught, Carmen goes out for a drink only to be sold into prostitution. 

And so begins the real plot, such as it is - Rambo's rescue mission. Surprisingly, though Rambo does rescue Carmen by killing a whole bunch of goons with nothing but a claw hammer, she doesn't survive the ordeal (why she dies after being rescued is left somewhat ambiguous). So Rambo holes up at his ranch, knowing the human traffickers are going to come after him. He sets up a bunch of comical booby traps straight out of Home Alone, and pretty much murders 40 or 50 people. He sets some on fire, pokes a spike into one's skull, watches other fall into pit traps (spikes exit their unfortunate bodies in some very uncomfortable places), twice blows a head in half, etc. etc. 

If you're in the mood for amazingly silly, over-the-top violence and you're willing to overlook or ignore the fundamentally xenophobic premise, then, well, the blood lasts and lasts until you might feel as though there's none left to spill.

I really feel like Sylvester Stallone's career is building to a Rambo/Rocky team-up movie. He'll play both parts and get another Oscar nomination.

Rocky/Rambo: Blood, Sweat, & Fears

Friday, February 26, 2021

Black Pudding

This black pudding, a D&D monster of bubbling ooze that slurps up its hapless victims and dissolves them, presented an interesting painting challenge. Merely painting the whole thing black would rob the pudding of its dimensionality, so I started with black but added light blue highlights to suggest light playing across the liquid surface. Then, I added some technical paint, Stirland Mud, to the "floor" of the pudding. I did that to make that section of the pudding particularly black, but the mud cracked in a way that I find pleasing, as if the inner substance of the monster is some sort of blue-white liquid and the outer surface a flexible skin. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

What Is Life but Another Whirl around the Sun?

Were George Harrison still alive, he would be 78 today. "What Is Life" is my favourite Harrison song, so here it is to celebrate George's would-be birthday. And, what the heck, mine, too. 
 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Fallout Instrumentation

Here are the first two pieces I've painted for Fallout: Wasteland Warfare. It's a set of instrumentation, faded and beaten up by the ravages of time and neglect. I'm pretty happy that even at this tiny scale the touches of colour I added are mostly where they should be. On the table, they look just fine. 

This particular set is unique in that I glued the instrument packs to the support racks backwards. It's the reason these are the first FOWW pieces I painted; I'd screwed them up already, so no further harm could be done. And now that they're painted, they really don't look that wonky anyway. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

My First Shipping Container

28mm-scale shipping containers seem to be THE go-to scatter terrain for modern-era tabletop wargaming. I painted this one red, then drybrushed some black grime onto the container to give it a weathered look. 
 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Random Thoughts on Cloak & Dagger

Richard Franklin's Cloak & Dagger (1984) is certainly a lot more violent than I expected from what seems to be a film targeted at kids. Our tween protagonist (played by Henry Thomas of E.T. fame), hunted by spies after he accidentally winds up with an Atari 5200 cartridge that has top secret military blueprints hidden within, is directly or indirectly responsible for at least four deaths (bad guys, but still), gets stuffed in a trunk with the dead body of an adult friend (shot through the back of the head a few minutes earlier), sees his girl friend kidnapped, gets held at gunpoint more than once, and thinks for a moment his dad's been blown up. There's also an uncomfortably realistic moment where some innocent airport worker gets shot in the leg at close range; his agonized reaction is incredibly effective. Great acting from a bit player! 

According to Wikipedia, Atari and Universal were working on an arcade game and a film, respectively, called Agent X. When the creators of the two projects got wind of each other, they agreed to cooperate, changing the name of the game/film to Cloak & Dagger. Atari supplied graphics from the arcade game, though in the guise of a (never-released) 5200 version of the game. There's also a ton of Atari project placement in the movie, concentrated in the computer store where the two kid protagonists hang out. 

A strange movie from a strange era. I don't believe I ever played, or even saw, the arcade game. I wonder if it's any good . . .

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Dark Juggangel

I repainted my Juggernaut/Zauriel composite figure to form a new generic hero or villain. 
 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Another HeroClix Repaint

I repainted this Superwoman (the Lucy Lane version) Heroclix figure to represent a generic heroine or villainess. 

Here she is from behind. 
 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Marvel

Here's another repainted HeroClix figure. This time, I repainted a Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr. figure from his "white period." I kept the gold trim, painted the whites over in black or red, and replaced the familiar Shazam! lightning bolt chest emblem with something more abstract. 

Here's the figure from behind. He'll make a decent hero or villain for V&V someday. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Plowshared

This started out as a 3D-printed fortification cobbled together from mud and logs. I painted and dressed it so as to make it appear as if the battle here was long ago, and now the muddy entrenchment has been mostly overgrown with grass and flowers. Now it's a nice little garden spot, and Astrid is here to enjoy it (and to provide scale). 

Working with materials other than paint is turning out to be a lot of fun. Now I can understand folks who build model railroads. 
 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Astrid and Her Goose

Astrid Illuck spends long, hot days picking fruit in the orchards, but her true passion is exploration. Obsessed with maps, she dreams of long voyages by land and sea, and even imagines spelunking to the Earth's core one day. Perhaps her dreams will come true; she's an exceptional student, and her teachers are sure her next step will be the Academy . . .
 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Creepers

Years ago, I came up with the idea of modifying the duplicates in my HeroClix collection into figures suitable for use in tabletop roleplaying games. I had several copies of DC's The Creeper (created by the legendary Steve Ditko), which have each been repainted and rebased as shown above. The one on the left has been only slightly modified; I removed his flowing cowl and gave him a black hood. The Creeper on the right has been painted red and black, with black rather than the original green hair. The one on the right looks like he could be some sort of demonic villain, while the guy on the left looks like a garden-variety generic robber in tights. Maybe I should paint him all in yellow; he could be one the guys from that IKEA-themed Beck video
 

Monday, February 15, 2021

This Stand Doesn't Deliver

I don't envy anyone who tries to adapt Stephen King's magnum opus, The Stand. The book's greatness doesn't lie in its good vs. evil plot, but in the tremendously evocative way King captures the downfall of the world and the impact of Captain Trips on the survivors scattered across the United States. Journeying with the survivors as they seek out each other and try to rebuild some semblance of civilization is a genuinely satisfying adventure. 

Even the main storyline - the confrontation between the forces of Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg - is tense, exciting, and even surprising on first read. Yes, the deus ex machina resolution of that confrontation still makes no sense, but almost everything before and after is full of taut drama, wonderful characterization, and some delicious philosophizing on the nature of good, evil, and civilization. 

Unfortunately, no film or miniseries can do justice to the world King builds in The Stand. In this 21st-century adaptation, we barely get to know the main characters before they're gone. Some important secondary characters disappear entirely, or are replaced with hybrids. Many of the most evocative scenes are lost so as to cram the bare bones of the plot into a few hours. (Stu's return west is just one example.) Frannie Goldsmith is woefully miscast for the second adaptation in a row. And for some unfathomable reason, the first half of the narrative is presented non-linearly--a choice that certainly works in some contexts, but woefully out of place for this story, which depends so much on the unfolding events of the plague. 

This adaptation's bright spot comes in the last episode, a new coda written by Stephen King that explores the conversation Stu and Fran have at the end of the original, shorter version of the novel. King sends Stu and Fran back to Ogunquit to see if they might not be better off starting their own little civilization rather than staying in Boulder, which shows hints of returning to the old ways that ruined the old world. As in the expanded version of the novel, King brings back Flagg, but he also brings back a new incarnation of Mother Abigail, along with a test of Fran's character. In this new coda, King adds new meaning to the title of his novel, putting the Stand in personal terms; still a conflict between good and evil, but on individual terms. There comes a time when we all have to take a stand. 

I would have given this review another star had the miniseries ended here, but instead King couldn't resist including the tacked-on "gotcha" ending of the expanded version of the novel, in which Flagg returns to conquer an isolated indigenous tribe, suggesting the cycle will one day start all over again. As it did way back in 1990, this feels more like a cheap horror film trope than an effective way to end the book. Does God really feel it necessary to purge the Earth every couple of thousand years? I thought he promised there wouldn't be any more floods...maybe we took that too literally.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Stop and Go Lights

A few nights ago I painted a couple of 28mm-scale traffic lights. They look good on the table, but as ever, these close-up photographs really amplify the mistakes, such as the sloppy signal lights up top. My "Don't Walk" hand is off-centre, and my "Walk" dude isn't quite right either. I do like how the pedestrian call button turned out, though, at least on the right-hand post. 
 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Trash Cans

I painted a couple of 28mm-scale trash cans. They're even a little grimy! 
 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Homemade Boulder

I painted a piece of plastic packaging to create this 28mm-scale rock formation. I think it's reasonably convincing. 
 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Strange Fruit

Some say there's something a little strange about the manner of Dalwinda Hergstrom, the fruit seller. Her produce is not only delicious and healthful, but fairly priced--and yet, her cryptic pronouncements leave the members of the community ill at ease. Some think Dalwinda simply has an odd sense of humour, but others wonder if this strangely ageless figure is more than she seems . . . 
 

Monday, February 08, 2021

Little Mr. Tentacles

 

Here is my second octopus! I'm quite pleased with how this one turned out. I started with a coat of purple contrast paint, then drybrushed it with dark red. The base is painted translucent blue, and I added some technical "snow" paint to serve as frothing foam.


Down below is my first octopus, which has a greener tint: 


Sunday, February 07, 2021

TOS Workstation

This computer console was originally molded in black plastic and came with a Playmates Star Trek action figure. It's not the right scale to act as a computer console for 28mm figures, but I figure it could serve as a decorative corner wall or perhaps a very large supercomputer of the style that used to take up entire rooms. 

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Juggangel

In last night's post, I mentioned modifying old DC and Marvel character miniatures to transform them into new heroes and villains. This fellow is Marvel's Juggernaut, a hulking, villainous brute. The wings come from an extra HeroClix Zauriel, an angelic DC hero. I lucked out here, because the wings not only follow the curve of Juggernaut's right arm, but the base of the wings fits perfectly into the musculature between his shoulder blades. 

Of course, at this point he's still jus Juggernaut, but with wings. Next, I'll repaint his skin or costume. Hopefully that will be enough to differentiate my new creation from its disparate origins. 
 

Friday, February 05, 2021

Rebased HeroClixers


 Click to embiggen! Here's a selection of old HeroClix figures I separated from their bulky HeroClix dials in an effort to transform them into usable 28mm figures for roleplaying games. I glued them to new bases (some painted by yours truly) that will fit into the one-inch squares used for tactical encounters in said roleplaying games. 

But that's not the final step. My plan now is to slightly modify these figures to turn them into new (that is, original and not copyrighted DC or Marvel) characters. 

Thursday, February 04, 2021

The Lightning Shield

Long ago, I owned a PC with a special CD burner that could print images and text on the non-data side of certain specially-treated CDs. This is one of the handful of discs I printed, "The Lightning Shield," a mix-CD of music I liked at the time. Clearly I should have printed the title on the lower half of the disc to avoid the middle of "Lightning" blending into the UFO's tractor beam. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Completed Cabs

The camera is unforgiving and reveals every mistake I've made, but these two taxicabs look good enough for the table, so I'm going to call them done. I'm particularly happy that the "TAXI" signs are clearly legible on each cab . 

I suppose I should add a wash, but I clearly haven't learned how to apply wash properly yet as all my models just wind up looking dirty, whereas wash is supposed to bring out the highlights. 

Monday, February 01, 2021

Leather Bookmark

I made this leather bookmark in grade seven during Industrial Arts class. That year, I believe Industrial Arts had three modules: power mechanics, ceramics, and leatherworking. I don't remember all the stages of the process I went through to create the bookmark; I imagine I cured the raw leather first somehow, and I seem to remember immersing the strip in water for a while. Then I used a small mallet and a number of...I guess I'll call them chisels...to beat the design into the leather. This is the end result. I think it's supposed to be some kind of flower.